You know when you get an idea in your head that you just know will work?
Well, since I got my 7D I’ve been looking forward to giving it a real test on the local Fulmars – as big a test of BIF photography as you’ll find – because I’ve been absolutely convinced that the 7D’s Zone AF system would make them silly-easy: I’ve been absolutely certain that this new mode would make even these birds (think jet-propelled gulls, even though they’re not related to gulls but to albatrosses) trivially easy to shoot, based in no small part on how easy it was to shoot Black Headed Gulls against busy backgrounds that I posted here.
Well I was very, very wrong about this!
Although Zone did indeed work spectacularly well against trees and whatnot earlier in the year (designed as it is to “ignore” what’s in the background and only focus on whatever’s closest to the camera), it was completely flummoxed by the sea as a background: I shot well over 200 Fulmar images – and kept only a handful!
I suspect that the problem is a DOF thing, because when shooting birds that had the sea as their background, they were often far enough away that I believe the AF algorithm couldn’t really tell they were closer than the water: and the water itself was choppy enough to provide sufficent distraction to the AF to make Zone struggle.
Whatever, it was a disappointment, although I’ll try again – the cliffs at Hartley village are an ideal spot for Fulmar photography.
Switching to Centre AF point + assist points helped a little, but I’m not always good enough to keep the AF point on the bird in that mode, and even when I did (as confirmed by a bit of chimping) I still didn’t always get a sharp image. Maybe the 100-400mm’s AF drive just can’t keep up with the 7D’s AF-On-Steroids? Or perhaps the assist points were locking onto the waves…
I’ve got a few Custom Function settings changes to try though, such as changing C.Fn III-3 from 1 to 0, which should have the effect of keeping tracking priority with the AF point that has already acquired focus on the bird, ignoring distractions from other AF points.
Anyway, for all that I struggled to get the shots I was after, I did actually manage a few I was pretty happy with – and in my defence, these Fulmars weren’t just casually hanging in the breeze, they were shifting!
Having done with Fulmars, I couldn’t resist pointing the camera at a few brilliant Starlings at Seaton Sluice – they’re really looking at their best at this time of year: